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Exercise & Fitness for Senior Citizens

Six in 10 Adults Now Get Physically Active by Walking; Senior Gain Less Than Others

Less than half get enough physical activity to improve their health

Aug. 8, 2012 - Sixty-two percent of adults say they walked for at least once for 10 minutes or more in the previous week in 2010, compared to 56 percent in 2005. The good news is senior citizens - those 65 and older - increased their walking. The bad news, it is less than other age groups, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, less than half (48 percent) of all adults get enough physical activity to improve their health, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey. For substantial health benefits, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 2 ˝ hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking. This activity should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time.

“More than 145 million adults are now getting some of their physical activity by walking,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “People who are physically active live longer and are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers. Having more places for people to walk in our communities will help us continue to see increases in walking, the most popular form of physical activity among American adults.”

The Vital Signs report notes that increases in walking were seen in nearly all groups surveyed. Walkers were defined as those who walked for at least one session of 10 minutes or more for transportation, fun or exercise.


Less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.

  • Adults need at least 2 and 1/2 hours (150 minutes) a week of aerobic physical activity. This should be at a moderate level, such as a fast-paced walk for no less than 10 minutes at a time.

  • Women and older adults are not as likely to get the recommended level of weekly physical activity.

  • Inactive adults have higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

  • Regular physical activity helps people get and keep a healthy weight.

  • Walkable communities result in more physical activity.

More people are walking, but just how many depends on where they live, their health, and their age.

  • The West and Northeast regions have the highest percentage of adults who walk in the country, but the South showed the largest percent increase of adults who walk compared to the other regions.

  • More adults with arthritis or high blood pressure are now walking, but not those with type 2 diabetes.

  • Walking increased among adults 65 or older, but less than in other age groups.

People need safe, convenient places to walk.

  • People are more likely to walk and move about more when they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime and hazards.

    • Maintaining surfaces can keep people who walk from falling and getting hurt. This also helps wheelchairs and strollers and is safer for people with poor vision.

  • People need to know where places to walk in their communities exist that are safe and convenient.

  • Walking routes in and near neighborhoods encourage people to walk to stops for buses, trains, and trolleys.

In the West, roughly 68 percent of people walk, more than any other region in the country. People living in the South had the largest increase in the percentage of people who walk, up by nearly 8 percentage points from about 49 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in 2010.

The report also found that more adults with arthritis or hypertension are walking; there was no increase in walking among adults with type 2 diabetes.

“It is encouraging to see these increases in the number of adults who are now walking,” said Joan M. Dorn, Ph.D., branch chief of the Physical Activity and Health Branch in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

“But there is still room for improvement. People need more safe and convenient places to walk. People walk more where they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime. Communities can be designed or improved to make it easier for people to walk to the places they need and want to go.”

The report highlights ways to provide better spaces and more places for walking. These include:

   ● State and local governments can consider joint use agreements to let community residents use local school tracks or gyms after classes have finished.

   ● Employers can create walking paths around or near the work place and promote them with signs and route maps.

   ● Citizens can participate in local planning efforts that identify best sites for walking paths and priorities for new sidewalks.

To learn more about Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and ways to get active, visit The National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life campaign has information on walking for health, success stories, and other fitness resources for older people at . For more information on CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, visit

Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These indicators include cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, viral hepatitis, and food safety.

How Much Exercise to Seniors Need?

If you're 65 years of age or older, are generally fit, and have no limiting health conditions you can follow the guidelines listed below.


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Latest news on Senior Citizen Exercise & Fitness

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The minimum physical activity senior citizens need:

   ● 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and
   ● muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).


   ● 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and
   ● muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).


   ● An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activityand
   ● muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

10 minutes at a time is fine

150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but it's not. That's 2 hours and 30 minutes, about the same amount of time you might spend watching a movie. The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don't have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It's about what works best for you, as long as you're doing physical activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.

For more on exercise for senior citizens click this link to the CDC site.

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